Interpreting Trends and Drivers of the Global Methane Budget

Interpreting Trends and Drivers of the Global Methane Budget


Methane is the second most important greenhouse gas driving climate change after carbon dioxide. Unlike carbon dioxide, methane stays in the atmosphere for shorter periods. However, methane has a much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. 

According to the latest global methane budget, the average methane concentration stood at about 1,875 parts per billion at the end of 2019. This article looks at trends and drivers of methane as detailed in the latest global methane budget.

Trends and Drivers of the Global Methane Budget

The development of the Global Carbon Project (GCP) global methane (CH4 ) budget details increasing methane emissions and accumulation in the atmosphere in the period under study. 

The following are some of the notable trends.

Methane Emissions Per Region

Emissions estimates show an increase in methane emissions in sixteen of the nineteen regions under study:

  • Five regions: China, Southeast Asia, the U.S., South Asia, and Brazil, account for greater than 40% of the total global emissions.
  • Two of these regions, namely China and South Asia, emit over 75% of the global anthropogenic emissions. 
  • The Middle East and China recorded the most significant increase in total emissions rates at over 20% rise.
  • In contrast, Europe, Korea, and Japan recorded a steady decline in carbon emissions rates, with total emissions decreasing by ~10% between 2000 and 2017.

Sources of Methane 

Four key source sectors are contributing to the observed global trends. These include coal mining, waste (solid waste disposal), livestock (enteric fermentation), and fossil emissions. Coal mining, waste, and livestock are the main drivers of emissions increases.

Coal Mining

Coal mine methane comes from coal and nearby rock strata from mining activities. Coal mine methane also comes from several types of mines, including:

  • Active underground mines: These mines release methane via degasification and ventilation systems.
  • Abandoned or closed mines: These mines release abandoned mine methane from fissures, diffuse vents, or boreholes.
  • Surface mines: These mines have lower methane emissions than underground mines. However, most surface mines produce massive volumes of coal, translating to methane emissions in enormous quantities.

Notably, underground coal mines account for the biggest methane emissions in the U.S. and globally. Enormous quantities of methane release in the form of diluted VAM, or ventilation air methane.

Waste (Solid Waste Disposal)

The EPA reveals municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills are the third-largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S. These emissions accounted for about 15.1% of emissions in 2019. When MSW goes into a landfill, it first goes through the anaerobic decomposition stage to generate lesser amounts of methane. However, anaerobic conditions establish within one year, and methane-producing bacteria decomposes waste, which leads to a massive methane generation.

Livestock (Enteric Fermentation)

Livestock production is the largest anthropogenic source of the global methane budget. Methane emits as a by-product of the typical livestock digestive process. The digestive system hosts microbes that ferment the feed consumed by the animal. The fermentation process, known as enteric fermentation, produces methane as a by-product. Enteric methane is the by-product of this process that the animal expels through burping.

Fossil Fuels

Recent statistics reveal fossil fuels emitted about 120 million tonnes of methane in 2020 globally. A sizable portion of these emissions is due to leakage along the production and supply chain that operators fail to capture or avert. Finding leaks in time can help reduce the amount of methane reaching our spaces. 

Luckily, technology offers cost-effective ways to limit these emissions, especially in the oil and gas industry. Aegex Technology provides tools to detect leaks from even the remotest places, so people can take urgent measures to reverse the emissions.

Digitization in the Campaign Against Methane Emissions and Global Warming

Technology and digitization play a crucial role in the war against global warming. The oil and gas industry, which is one of the most significant sources of methane emissions, is now leveraging digital tools to detect, measure, and monitor methane leaks in perilous and remote locations, including abandoned mines and offshore rigs. 

Digital tools equipped with innovative technology, such as advanced sensors, machine learning, the industrial internet of things, and big data analytics, predict, detect, and prevent leaks that would otherwise find their way into our atmosphere unnoticed.

Aegex Digitization Tools Help Manage Methane Leaks

Aegex's intrinsically safe and certified tools detect even the smallest leaks in hazardous environments. One of Aegex's digitization tools includes the world-acclaimed NexVu IoT solution, which features smart sensors, endpoints, and radios to provide accurate methane detection, measurement, and monitoring. 

The Aegex10 Intrinsically Safe Tablet boasts features and functionalities that allow data-driven predictive maintenance in remote and dangerous locations, thus boosting the war against methane leaks in hard-to-reach places. Contact us today to learn more.